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Guide to making your home a space to breathe easy & keep germs at bay

It has never been more important to create healthy hygiene habits around the home. Our top tips and speedy hacks will help you tackle the most common germs, viruses and bacteria.


Reading Time: 7 minutes

Red sneakers on the entrance door mat

No home can ever be completely dirt-free, but keeping yours as clean as possible is the best way to minimize exposure to common germs and viruses. From the bedroom to the basement, our expert strategies will help you do just that.

Living room

One of the highest traffic areas in a home, everything that can be tracked through your house will inevitably end up settling here, so it’s a good idea to create a space that’s as easy to keep clean as possible.

  • Many family members head straight for the living room as soon as they get in the door, so introduce a few healthy habits to prevent spreading germs: make sure shoes are always removed and hands are washed before entering, and regularly clean down frequently touched surfaces like door handles, light switches and sideboards.

  • According to a study on household microbial hotspots, remote controls, video game controllers, tablets and screens that are shared by the whole family are some of the worst culprits for harboring germs and bacteria in the living room. Keep a packet of antibacterial wipes handy and regularly wipe them down between use.

  • If you have any low-lying furniture, chances are there’s lots of dirt and bacteria trapped underneath it (along with a few pens, coins and cookie crumbs). It may not be practical every time you vacuum, but regularly move the furniture out of the way to tackle the detritus.

  • A carpet can hold many times its own weight in dirt and dust, so bare wood or vinyl flooring is ideal to avoid germ build-up. If you are putting down rugs, avoid anything too deep pile (especially if you have pets) and opt for ones that can be machine washed.

  • When it comes to upholstery, the biggest risks come from allergens created by dust mites, but that doesn’t mean germs can’t get in there too. You should regularly vacuum any fabric furniture and use a vinegar solution to wipe down the surface. In general, hard surfaces are easier to keep clean than soft ones, so if you’re in the market for a new couch and are worried about germs and viruses, consider opting for a vinyl or faux leather one.


From germs and bacteria to mold and mildew, some good kitchen cleaning hacks will keep all sorts of nasties away.

  • Cross-contamination is one of the biggest kitchen bacteria spreaders, so counter tops should be your first port of call when looking to eliminate germs from your kitchen. Over the course of the day, counter tops come into contact with a little bit of everything: the bottom of shopping bags, raw and cooked food, cell phones and appliances, and cups from every room in the house. Use a clean cloth and disinfectant spray to wipe them down thoroughly before and after any food prep, and at the end of every day.

  • According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the vegetable and meat compartments of your refrigerator are some of the germiest in the kitchen, so clean and disinfect them regularly. Also pay particular attention to drip trays and rubber door seals, as germs and bacteria can quickly build up here.

  • Reduce the spread of bacteria by using lidded garbage containers and cleaning up crumbs and debris as you go.

  • Surprisingly, microwave door handles have been found to be the dirtiest surfaces in many kitchens, so get into the habit of giving yours a quick wipe with a clean cloth and disinfectant spray daily.

  • Cloth towels and sponges are also some of the most frequently contaminated items in most kitchens, so either use disposable paper towels or get into the habit of putting them in the laundry at the end of the day.


Some regular cleaning and a little TLC can go a long way to helping you breathe easier and sleep soundly.

  • It will come as no surprise that the area in and around your bed is the most bacteria-prone space in your bedroom. Bedsheets and pillowcases should be washed regularly – the CDC recommends washing your sheets in hot water once a week.

  • Picking the ideal temperature to eliminate bacteria in bedding can be tricky, as it often depends on the type of detergent you’re using (some detergents are formulated with enzymes that kick into action at low temperatures, and some can even become less effective at very high temperatures), but a general rule of thumb for bedding is to wash it at the hottest temperature the care label allows.

  • Open windows daily to ventilate the room, use a laundry basket with a lid and try to avoid bringing ‘outdoor’ clothing (coats, shoes, purses and handbags) into the bedroom.

  • Studies show that clean air helps you sleep better, so consider investing in an air purifier to remove aggravating particles (just make sure to look for one with lower noise/dBA levels, or opt for one with a ‘quiet’ or ‘night’ mode).

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From the toilet seat to the toothbrush holder and everything in between, there’s plenty of germ-busting to be done in bathrooms.

  • Shower curtains, bath mats and hand towels can be the worst culprits for harbouring mold, mildew and germs. Wash towels regularly in temperatures over 130ºF and be sure to wash and dry your shower curtain regularly too (certain bathroom sprays contain ingredients that help prevent mildew growth).

  • Use an all-purpose bathroom cleaner to spray down tiles, countertops and walls and always make sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards.

  • While the toilet might seem like the most obvious germ-hoarder, studies show that the sink drain is actually the dirtiest place in the bathroom. Use white vinegar or baking soda combined with hot water to flush the nasties out and make sure to disinfect faucet handles regularly too.

  • If you have a guest bathroom, it’s particularly important to change out the hand towels regularly. Ideally, store them on a bar instead of a hook to reduce folds and help them dry quicker.

  • Toothbrushes and toothbrush holders are another surprising place bacteria like to hang out in your bathroom, as they tend to stay damp the longest. Try to store your toothbrushes somewhere where they can dry out between uses (just make sure it’s not near the toilet, as contaminated particles can be sprayed into the air and hang about for at least two hours after a flush—yet another good reason to put the lid down).

  • As with other high-traffic areas, regularly clean light switches and door handles.

Home office

Many of us have had to DIY a hasty work-from-home set up recently. Follow these quick fixes to make sure it’s as germ-free as possible.

  • Keyboards were one of the office’s worst germ hoarders, and the same is true when you’re working from home. If you tend to snack at your desk, give your mouse and keyboard a clean with an antibacterial wipe after eating, and wash your hands before and after sitting down to work. For a deeper clean, use isopropyl alcohol and a microfibre cloth.

  • Consider keeping a hand-held vacuum cleaner in your home office to quickly get rid of dust and food debris from your desk and office chair.

  • Clear your desk at the end of the day and wipe it down with a damp cloth and an anti-bacterial spray (bonus: think of how great it will feel to start the day at a clean and tidy desk).

  • Your phone likely accompanies you to every room in the house (yep, even the bathroom), so get into the habit of cleaning it along with your other home office electronics. For a simple cleaning solution, mix one-part filtered water and one-part distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray a little bit onto a microfibre cloth and use small circular movements to wipe down your phone (never spray the device directly and always check the manufacturer’s instructions).


A healthy basement is key to a germ-proof home.

  • Cockroaches and mice are one of the key things to be vigilant of in basements as they can harbor all kinds of bacteria. In order to avoid these critters from crashing in your basement, keep the lids of any trash cans securely closed and keep any foodstuff, including pet food, well sealed.

  • Throw out any old paints, glues or anything that may contain harmful chemicals or VOCs.

  • Repair any cracks or holes and seal up any openings that might entice pests in.

  • While no one likes a damp basement, there’s a humidity sweet spot to aim for—between 35-45 per cent relative humidity is ideal. Any higher than that and you risk mold growth (but below that is good news for budding viruses).

Originally published